Keeping Jesus less special (and more special in big ways)

Jesus was the God-man. 100% Man and 100% God. When we ascribe to him too many special attributes, we begin to lose the human side. He becomes too mystical and ethereal, unable to identify with our own temptations, pain and sufferings. This is what the gnostic heresy aimed to do at nearly every turn. Certainly Jesus DID have many special attributes, but not anything you can dream up. For starters, he was not omnipresent.

I’ve heard a convincing case made by some charismatic theologians that Jesus did all his miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by some special “son of God” power that only HE possessed. That’s why he didn’t do any miracles until after he had been baptized and the dove descended on him. He also told his followers they would do greater things by the same holy spirit.

Here is another special attribute we sometimes assume Jesus must have had: a fully-formed Reformation-style articulation of why he was going to the cross. But we are the ones trapped in death and tell all our stories and ideas within that framework. Even if we escape death (through Jesus), the END of our life plays a prominent part in the story we tell ourselves. Here, Alison suspects that Jesus might not have been thinking about it in quite the same way. He was not afraid of death or restrained by it. He knew it had no hold on him. Even as a man, he knew he was completely outside of that system.

So Jesus was able to see what was going to happen to him, not thanks to some prophetic gift in the sense of special, secret inside information about what was going to happen at the next step, but in the much more radical sense of the prophetic gift of one who, possessed by the life and vivaciousness of God, was able to understand exactly the workings of a culture shot through with death. Because of this he was able to go to his death as if it were not. And not only to go toward it as if it were not, but to make of it a show, a sign so that others might live in the same way.

-James Alison, Raising Abel, p.60

This post is kind of a mess. Sorry!

Anyway, I just think that Jesus mind must have been different from ours in a really “big picture” kind of way. When we imagine what Jesus must of thought (while we read through the Gospels) I think we make the mistake of starting with ourselves and then simply augmenting our intellect or power so as to imagine ourselves in Jesus’ shoes.

We are walking down the road and we see a sick man. Jesus was walking down the road and sees the same sick man but realizes that he is oppressed by a demon. He commands the demon to come out and the sick person is healed. We imagine that if that were us, we would still be ourselves, walking along, but with a special spiritual sense that allows us to detect the demon and zap it. But with this imaginative exercise, we still maintain all our sinful baggage, especially (when applying Girard) our dependence on others to define our desires and our personal identity. We are not so good at imagining to be Jesus as we think. So we can come to incorrect conclusions about what he did and what his teachings mean. The disciples did all the time!

If Jesus thought differently than us (and he did), it must be in big ways, not isolated incidents of special knowledge. That is more like a normal prophet would have behaved.